Releasing the To-Do List

A couple of weeks ago, I tested positive for Covid for the third time in two years.

The first time, in July 2022, I was quite ill and the horrible sense of brain fog lasted a few months, making it difficult to concentrate, which was very unpleasant.

The second time, in November 2023, I had no symptoms at all and only tested myself because I was due to go on writing retreat (which I obviously had to miss), so I railed against the restrictions, feeling very hard-done-by at having to stay indoors and avoid people for a week. That said, I was very glad not to feel ill!

This time around, in June 2024, I had medium-level cold symptoms for a few days, with some lingering minor effects, but it wasn’t too bad. However, I decided my best route back to health was to take it easy, so I took the whole week off work (the amazing benefits of freelancing and having not too busy a work schedule at the moment). I also gave myself permission to release my to-do list and just do whatever I wanted during my enforced isolation.

And it turned out, what I really wanted to do was – read.

What with my job almost exclusively involving reading other people’s writing and providing feedback or editing, and my solo podcast episodes requiring me to reread books and do lengthy reviews, I spend quite a lot of time reading anyway. I usually have at least two client books on the go, one for the podcast, and both a physical book and an audiobook for pleasure (which I also review), plus sometimes one for a book club (though that usually goes into the ‘pleasure’ category, but also requires extensive notes).

So, that’s five or six books I’m reading at once – all the time… Which seems quite ridiculous, when you lay it out like that!

Anyway, I removed the client books from the schedule, but did have self-imposed deadlines for podcast reading, especially since one of the books I was revisiting for my solo episode series was also the selected book for a book club meeting at the end of June. I breezed through that in a few days, overlapping it with the first book I’d chosen for a different podcast episode, where I was trying to find a five-star read, based on recommendations from a survey I ran a while back.

Both of those books were, admittedly, pretty short, but I finished them both within four days.

By the end of the week, I had also finished a lengthy audiobook I’d been listening to for a couple of weeks and reached the halfway point of the next five-star-read-search selection.

I’ve been spending a lot more time listening to audiobooks recently than I used to, since I would previously only do that when out walking or doing chores. But when I’m taking detailed notes for the podcast, it’s easier to be sitting down and focusing mostly on the book, with my laptop within reach. Normally, that would lead me to get my knitting out, but tendonitis in my elbow is preventing that at the moment – so I’ve gone back to an old hobby – colouring! It’s incredibly soothing and a lot of fun, and is the perfect accompaniment to listening to an audiobook.

It’s good to know that, even given how long I’ve been reading as either a job or as part of podcast projects, with prescribed book selections and external deadlines, the thing I most wanted to do when released from all those obligations was still reading!

Over the weekend, I got the opportunity to take a cancellation place on a reading retreat in November – and I already had another one booked for December. So, I’ve got two three-day reading binges to look forward to at the end of the year. I’ve already decided I’m going to take a complete break from prescribed reading and only take books I truly want to immerse myself in, without the need to worry about taking extensive notes. So, no paid client books, no podcast books, no book club books – just purely reading for pleasure. I can’t wait!


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